New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose 79 receiving touchdowns ranks third all-time at the position, has announced his retirement.
The three-time Super Bowl champion made his decision public Sunday in a post on Instagram.
“I will be retiring from the game of football today,” Gronkowski wrote. “My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field … But now its time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life.”
Gronkowski has been a force on the field, being named to the Pro Bowl five times and first-team All-Pro on four occasions.
However, his career has also been marred by injuries. He played in all 16 games his first two seasons in the NFL, but never reached that number in any of the seven seasons afterward.
Gronkowski exited on top, catching six passes for 87 yards in the Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.
“His elite combination of size, skill, intelligence, toughness and ability to perform in pressure situations set him apart,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a statement released by the team. “Rob’s impact on our team and organization was felt in many ways. In the ultimate team sport, Rob was a great, great teammate.
“His production spoke for itself, but his daily attitude, unmistakably positive energy wherever he went and toward whoever he touched will never be forgotten.”
Gronkowski finishes with 521 career receptions, 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns as a receiver. He also scored one rushing TD to give him 80 total touchdowns — tying him for 62nd place all-time.
His 12 playoff touchdown receptions rank second only to Jerry Rice.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady were among those paying tribute to Gronkowski on social media in the wake of his announcement.
“Rob was a major reason why we won games and championships,” Belichick said in a statement. “His elite combination of size, skill, intelligence, toughness and ability to perform in pressure situations set him apart.”